Guyana’s rich diversity of food means that we can eat something different every day for weeks on end – a sampling of our history mixing and matching our diverse heritage. For example, curry lovers like me can easily wander off a list of 14 different curries – that’s two weeks. Then there are other staples that have to be mentioned like Cook-up Rice, Mettagee and Chow Mein or what about Boil ‘n Fry.
Ask any Guyanese in the Diaspora what he or she misses most about ‘home’ and the answer is sure to include food. Guyanese food like its gold – is highly valued, even by non-Guyanese people. As I sit here, thousands of miles away from Guyana, my thoughts and memories of our food are golden. Here is a sample:
Mauby and my mother’s homemade Ginger Beer, maturing and brewing to perfection, bottling and sitting in the warm, golden, afternoon sun at tables in the Sacred Heart Church yard, waiting for customers to buy at the annual church fair. (PIC)
Both drinks would have been sweetened with Guyana’s best golden Demerara Sugar. Even though it costs more, I always buy Demerara sugar; it keeps me connected to home. The coarse crystals dissolve and sweeten my juices and teas just as I like. (PIC)
The tea time delicacy of boiled eggs stuffed with a golden, creamy filling with parsley and Guyanese wiry-wiri pepper, is one of those things that if you’re not careful you’d eat more than you care to admit. (PIC)
Stuffed golden cheese is to dominate the stuffed eggs, delicately shaped and radiant in the afternoon light. Cheesy and savory with a hint of pepper sauce, this is another tea / snack time that always delights. (PIC)
Growing up I had no idea how to go about picking corn and without exception I always chose the ones that were difficult. I wasn’t worried though because they were cooked in fresh coconut milk with our distinctive thyme, hot peppers and a hint of garlic, they were the tastiest. These days, I buy sweet and fresh young corn and cook it the same way and I am transported home with every bite. (PIC)
A school snack of perfectly round gold coins of fried green plantain chips is an absolute favorite. Try it with some good Guyanese ole mango sour and you have a treat that belies the simplicity of the blend. (PIC)
You think we call it butterfish because that’s the name of the real fish? I do not know. What I do know is that the fresh fish glows with golden colors and we love fried to perfection or steamed. (PIC)
How can I talk about food being golden and not mention the deep rich gold color of Guyanese curry? (PIC)
I could write extensively about any of these golden food memories, but you know what’s really special about Guyanese food? It is the generosity and hospitality of the Guyanese people. No matter how little there is, there is always plenty to share with others – strangers, family, and friends. You cannot enter a Guyanese home without being fed. If they haven’t seen you in a while, oh my goodness, be ready to be force-fed (in a good way). They want to do all your favorites and more. Have you ever visited family or friends and when ‘kicking’ you mention that you haven’t eaten or drank something in a long time, and long after the item seems like a miracle? Sometimes long after dinner is complete and if you are all still up, a pot placed on the fire to suddenly cook a late-night meal is out of the question. So much is the awesomeness of Guyanese hospitality.
It often takes not having access to something or being away from home to really appreciate what you had. The stunning variety, the freshness, and the constant Guyanese access to fruits, vegetables, seafood, poultry, and meat are breathtaking. I have written before of being overwhelmed whenever I am in Guyana and visiting any of the markets – there is so much food! Eating one variety of bananas for years and then having several varieties to choose from when you are in Guyana makes the appreciation much more heartwarming.
I will close by appealing to all of us not to lose the essence of who we are as a people, as a nation. Our food culture is tied to our identity; it’s a way of life and being who we are. As globalization continues to spread, it is our Guyanese business that identifies us as something special.
Happy 50th Guyana!